Men’s College Basketball: St. Xavier wins title at own tourney
By Steve Millar For Sun-Times Media December 23, 2013 10:42PM
St. Xavier players and coaches show off their plaque after winning their tournament title Monday night. | Supplied photo
Updated: January 25, 2014 6:22AM
Down 47-36 early in the second half Monday night, things didn’t look great for the host Cougars in the championship game of the St. Xavier Midwest Tournament.
The Cougars, though, were determined not to let anyone leave their gym with a championship trophy.
“We take a lot of pride in our home court,” St. Xavier’s Brad Karp said. “We don’t want any one beating us on our home court, let alone a team winning a championship on our home court.”
St. Xavier, ranked No. 10 in NAIA Division II, responded to the deficit in impressive fashion, reeling off a 16-0 run to take the lead for good on its way to a 87-76 win over No. 14 Bellevue (Neb.) at the Shannon Center.
“At the beginning of the year, I thought we could win this tournament,” St. Xavier coach Tom O’Malley said. “There were five ranked teams in this tournament, so there were no cupcakes. I’m very satisfied that we were able to win it.”
Tournament Most Valuable Player Karp scored a game-high 23 points to pull to within 67 of the school’s all-time career record, but it was far from a one-man show for the Cougars (13-2).
During the key 16-0 surge, six different players scored.
After buckets by Kyle Huppe, Tinley Park product Tony Core (10 points, 9 rebounds) and Karp, Jack Krieger (21 points) buried a huge three-pointer and Michael Simpson (14 points, 4 assists) scored five straight points to give St. Xavier a 50-47 lead.
Josh Mawhorr (12 points, 6 rebounds) knocked down a jumper to close the run.
Krieger scored seven points during a 9-2 run later in the half that extended the lead to 67-54.
“We just wanted to come out for the second half and play better defense,” Krieger said. “It all started with that. My teammates got me the ball in good spots and I was able to knock the shots down.”
Bellevue (10-3), which got 14 points from Taylor Young and 12 from Isaiah Strong, made one last push with a 6-0 run that closed the Cougars’ lead to 73-67 with 2:15 left.
St. Xavier answered with Mawhorr scoring off a terrific drive and dish from Simpson. The Cougars went 6-of-8 from the free-throw line over the final 37 seconds to seal the deal.
It was the ninth straight win for St. Xavier.
A back-and-forth first half featured seven ties before Bellevue closed it on a 7-0 run to take a 41-34 lead to the break.